‘I was a coward’: Bishop who voted against gay clergy comes out as gay

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A Bishop who voted against allowing gay clergy has come out as gay himself – and apologised for being a “coward”.

Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Kevin Kanouse – who opposed both same-sex marriage and permitting gay clergy – wrote an emotional letter to church leaders this week, explaining his decision to come out.

He wrote: “I learned early on that I had to hide my true nature… especially because I wanted to be a pastor and serve in the church. After all, pastors could not be gay and serve Jesus.”

He married a woman – Billye Jean – and attempted to hide his sexuality. The pair have two sons and a grandson – but after years of hiding, Kanouse eventually opened up about his sexuality to both his wife and the world.

He wrote of the pair’s decision to remain together: “For a long time we discussed the implications for us and our future. I wanted to remain married and to try to continue to understand what this would mean for us.

“She accepted me and affirmed me, despite her fears and questions. We are both committed to our marriage, for which I am grateful. I recognize that this is our decision and it is right for us.”



However, while he was in the closet, the Bishop opposed gay rights within the Church.

He explained: “When it came time to vote on new policies for the ELCA, whereby we would allow the blessing of same-gender relationships and remove the threat of discipline for pastors who blessed such relationships, I voted ‘no’, feeling incredibly torn.

“I was afraid. I was afraid I would have to defend my decision to vote “yes” in congregations that would be strongly opposed to gay and lesbian persons. It was safer to hide behind a ‘no’ vote.

“I was a coward… another sin for which I needed forgiveness.”

Luckily, the measure passed anyway – otherwise Kanouse would now face disciplinary action for coming out.


Of his decision to come forward now, he added: “I was moved to share my journey with the youth because I know many are struggling with these and other issues of self-esteem, rejection, and self-loathing.  I wanted to instill the hope of the Gospel among youth who are defining themselves.  I urged that none of them would endure that pain for as long as I did.”

“I hope it will promote more open and honest conversation about who we are and whose we are, especially between parents and children. I stand ready to have conversations with you about my journey and yours.”